Naomi Long said:
“Everyone assumed that Reg Empey had decided not to run in East Belfast because he was committed to his job as a Minister in the Assembly, having made great play of the double-jobbing issue. It now appears that he is keen to be an MP after all, but clearly sees no prospect of UCUNF winning in East Belfast, hence his decision to run off to South Antrim and abandon his East Belfast constituency.
“This is a slap in the face to the people of East Belfast, as far from being committed to representing them, he appears willing to run anywhere where he thinks there might be a better chance for himself. It raises serious questions – will Reg stand down as MLA for East Belfast if elected in South Antrim? Will he, despite his criticism of others for double jobbing, now try do not just two jobs but for two different sets constituents?
“One question it answers is whether he believe that UCUNF can win in East Belfast. It is now clear that he knows that the Ulster Unionists, with or without their Tory friends, are running a distant third in East Belfast, just as Reg ran a distant third behind myself and Peter Robinson in the Assembly elections. The East Belfast UCUNF candidate must be furious at this vote of no confidence in his prospects by his own party leader.
“People in East Belfast are looking for positive, committed leadership and it is clear, even to Reg, that the only real alternative to the DUP here is Alliance.”